5 practical ways you can help continue the anti-racism fight in sport

Mural of Manchester United striker and England player Marcus Rashford on the wall of the Coffee House Cafe on Copson Street, Withington (PA Wire)
15:28pm, Fri 16 Jul 2021
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Following the online abuse received by footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following the England men’s loss in the Euro 2020 final, Sir Mo Farah has spoken out about messages he’s been sent online, further highlighting racism in sport.

“I’ve had some shocking ones, I’ve had certain things to say ‘you don’t belong’, ‘move here’, I’ve had quite a bit,” the Olympic gold medallist told the BBC. “The social media companies need to do a lot more, they need to be held accountable to what people get up to.”

But it’s not just social platforms that need to take action. “The recent Euro 2021 final showed us just how rooted racism is in our society,” says Aliya Mohammed, chief executive officer at Race Equality First. “We can come closer to stamping out racism if each one of us takes a few simple actions.”

1. Follow the 3 R’s approach: Respond, Record, Report

Hands clasped on an athletics track

Whether you’re a victim of racism in sport yourself or witness someone else being targeted, follow the 3 R’s approach, says leading barrister Paula Rhone-Adrien: “As soon as you can, challenge the person (respond) who has behaved in that racist manner, then record it, then report it. That’s why this behaviour continues, because people aren’t calling it out.”

Mohammed says: “Remember that language is a powerful tool – it structures and reinforces beliefs and prejudices, so stop using inappropriate language and terminology and always challenge others if you hear them using this.”

It’s important to call out behaviour, but only when you feel it’s safe to do so. It may help to calmly ask, ‘What do you mean?’ in response to an offensive comment. “Especially if it’s a microaggression or they’re trying to be ‘funny’, you can take the power out of the ‘joke’ by asking them to explain it,” says Ben Osu, strategy lead at the Anthony Walker Foundation. “If it’s a more sustained attack, then record it so there’s evidence and then report it to officials and the police.”

2. Report racism online

Many social media users have been reporting abusive comments they’ve seen online following the Euros, but Rhone-Adrien suggests going one step further: “I would also ask you to pursue it with the social media platform, don’t just report it and forget about it. Expect a response and say that you will highlight this if you do not get a response. Because it is the inactivity that is allowing this poison to continue to flow.”

3. Support victims

“As someone who has been a victim of racism, oftentimes what being the target does is single you out and make you feel very lonely in that situation,” says Osu. “So for other people to stand up and stand with you, it gives you that moral support.”

He also suggests sharing details of organisations that can provide specialised assistance: “That’s a big thing about what we do at the Anthony Walker Foundation, is provide support for victims of specifically race- and faith-based hate crime. There’s a number of organisations out there that can help.”

4. Hold schools accountable

Girls school football tournament

If your child is the victim of racism while playing sport at school, report it to staff. “Think about what it is you want the college or school to do,” Rhone-Adrien says. “Is it simply that you want the person to be reprimanded, is it that you want the school to pay for a trained facilitator to come in and give the teachers and children classes on racism and tackling racist abuse? [While] reporting this behaviour, at the same time say, ‘This is what I want you to do’.”

5. Talk to your children

“A lot of parents are worried about bringing racism to the forefront of a child’s mind,” says Rhone-Adrien. “If you don’t tackle it with your child, somebody else will.”

Using the example of the abuse of black England footballer players, she says: “The way you want to approach it with your child is obviously age dependent and what access they have to information. If you are talking to a child who is not an internet user but has picked it up from TV or the news or the school playground, explain to them what’s happened, and talk to them about it in terms of feelings, because children understand feelings, and talk to them about it in terms of unfairness.”

Osu adds that when it comes to participating in sport, parents can lead by example: “What’s really important is for parents to really drive home the idea of inclusion and that we’re all – it sounds really cliché – part of the human race. Whatever colour or creed they may come from, essentially they are the same, and they’re just there to play.”

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